Search consultant? Or go it alone?


If you’re contemplating an agency search process any time soon, you may have been weighing up whether you can go it alone, or whether you need the services of a professional agency search consultant.

While it’s a dilemma that may sound familiar to some, there are some simple questions to ask that can be helpful to put the task ahead in perspective, and help you decide whether you have the time, resources and ability to go it alone or put your hand up for help.

If the answer is “yes” to any of the following questions, you stand a much better chance of choosing the right agency that’s right for you – faster – if you use an agency search consultant:

Understanding your own organization

Do we have tough questions to ask within our own organization?

This is perhaps the most important question any marketer or procurement team can ask. An agency search is also an opportunity to ask questions of – and within – your own organization in terms of what’s working, what’s not working and how well is the agency working with its’ marketing agencies.  Getting objective answers from tough questions can be tough without outside help.

Multiple stakeholders.  Different views.

Do we have multiple stakeholders with different ideas of the kind of agency we should be looking for? 

A “yes” answer is an indication you need objective advice to help align stakeholder requirements.  Not aligning stakeholders upfront will prolong the decision making process and likely make agreement on your final choice difficult.

Today’s agencies

Are we familiar with today’s agency landscape? 

The agency landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, with familiar agencies enhancing offerings and new agencies emerging to fill niches other agencies haven’t been able to fulfill.  If you’re not familiar with today’s agency landscape – you likely need the perspective on an agency search consultant.

Change of mandate

Have our requirements changed significantly since we hired our last agency?

If like most marketers, you and your teams are coming to terms with the increasing complexity of media and media channels, and your own requirements have evolved, an agency search consultant who understands the evolved landscape may be an invaluable asset to your search team.

Evaluation criteria

Are evaluation criteria unclear?

Defining evaluation criteria is a critically important step in preparing for an agency search.  If you’re unable to narrow your search criteria and gain alignment with stakeholders on key attributes, an agency search consultant can help bring clarity and alignment.


Do we have interest from external stakeholders in an agency process?

Marketers and procurement teams need to take time to think this one through – particularly if press, shareholders and / or parent or subsidiary companies will be asking questions throughout the process. Letting external stakeholders know you’re taking the process seriously by engaging external expertise can alleviate external pressures and allow you to focus on getting the results you want.

Best practice

Are we familiar with agency search best practice?

When there are millions of dollars of advertising dollars at stake, it’s reassuring for everyone to know you’re adhering to a code of best practice.  This applies to your internal stakeholders, external stakeholders and agencies who are participating in the process.  Transparency, fairness and integrity are hallmarks of a great client and good business, so make sure you have best practice guidelines or you have a search consultant who can articulate a best practice framework.

We’re dreading it

Are we dreading an agency search process?

If you’re dreading embarking on an agency search, you can take a lot of the headache out of the process by using an outside agency search consultant.  Process, search criteria, logistics, evaluation metrics and feedback to unsuccessful candidates can usefully be assigned to a search consultant and alleviating pressure from you and your teams.

A “yes” to any of the questions above is an indication you may need help in an agency search process.  And a “yes” answer to at least two of the questions above should have you reaching for the phone (if you’ve not done so already…)


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

photo: Travis Simon
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